Since Aug. 26, private reporters, who work as freelancers, were used 12 times to cover court in Aiken, Lexington, Richland and York counties, according to Rosalyn Frierson, the director of South Carolina Court Administration. Private reporters have been used every week for the past three weeks, she said.
Frierson did not respond to an e-mail request for the number of private court reporters hired between July 1 and Aug. 26. At the beginning of July, six additional judges were added to family court and three to circuit in South Carolina.
Brenda Sigwald, the president of the South Carolina State Court Reporters Association, previously said the new judges plus the shortage of reporters created a desperate situation for the courts.
Court in Aiken County was canceled two days in the first week of August because the state did not provide a reporter.
Frierson said the state has previously used freelance reporters when an adequate number of state reporters was not available because of vacancies, illness or leave. The state has 22 vacancies for court reporters.
“We have done it in the past. We don’t generally like to do it because of the cost,” she said.
The shortage of court reporters has been an ongoing issue in recent years. Midland Technical College, once a leading training center for court reporters in South Carolina, discontinued its program in 2010, according to its Web site.
Aiken County Clerk of Court Liz Godard said it’s “unusual” to use private reporters in Aiken courts. Court administration has recently responded to the need, she said.
“When there is a break in the chain, it hinders the courts immensely,” she said.
Private court reporters must meet the same requirements and certifications as state-employed reporters, Frierson said. Many of the freelance reporters hired this month previously worked for the state.